Walt Disney's Magic Touches All of Us

Posts tagged ‘collecting’

Keeping Disney Time

I’ve written in the past about collecting Disneyana (See Hooked on Collecting). One of the items, I have gravitated to are timepieces. In the book “The Mickey Mouse Watch, From the Beginning of Time” by Robert Heide & John Gilmen, they relate that Tim Luke, who was working then as the head of collectibles at Christie’s, called the Mickey Mouse timepieces pivotal and central to the theme of Disneyana collecting.

I don’t wear any jewelry regularly, other than my wedding band. But, wearing a Disney watch seems like a way to make a statement without being flashy and it can be a great conversation starter. I have some very nice non-Disney watches that I wear regularly. But I also have some Disney watches that I find myself wearing often. All the items in the post are from my collection.

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LtoR: SII Marketing; WDW original artwork (they used to sell these at Uptown Jewelers on Main St); Seiko; early D23 gift; Kodak, WDW 25th Anniversary; WDW SE Collector’s Series

I also have collected some very early Disney watches which I don’t wear. Watches were not the first item Disney granted merchandising rights for. That goes to a simple pad of paper in 1929, shortly after the release of Steamboat Willie. Watches didn’t appear until 1933 and were first produced by the Waterbury Clock Company under the Ingersoll label . The first Mickey wristwatches were sold for $3.75.

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Because the watches proved to be so popular, (Macy’s in NYC sold 11,000 of them in one day and they outsold the World’s Fair commemorative 3-1 in 1939). Ingersoll sold more than 2.5 million watches between 1933 and 1935. A Mickey watch was sealed in the NY World’s Fair time capsule in 1939. The watch I own is from 1934, identifiabke by the addition of “Made in the USA”, added to discourage counterfeiters.

Ingersoll also produced a pocket watch version in 1933. The original box was red like the wristwatch. The box I have is from a later model.

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Once the watches popularity was established, Ingersoll added a deluxe version manufactured from 1937-1942. I haven’t been able to determine the exact year my watch is from.

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In 1933 Disney released the Silly Symphony cartoon Three Little Pigs, which became an enormous success. Not only was the short Popular, with audiences coming to the theaters to see the Pigs, not necessarily the main features. The song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” sold records, sheet music and was easily on everyone’s lips. The watches sold by the thousands. The wolf’s eyes shift back and forth on the pocket watch version. A larger table alarm clock was produced in 1934 and sold for $1.39.

My collection moves ahead to the  what I believe is the 1950s with these two very different alarm clock styles from Bradley. One is a simple windup alarm clock. The other is more in the old whimsical Disney style with 2 bells.


This “Official Mouseketeer” watch is probably from the 1970s revival of the “New Mickey Mouse Club”.

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These two mantel clocks from the 1980s. One is a Mickey Mouse 60th Anniversary. The other plays 6 melodies. both are by Seiko.

These are some more recent pieces I bought, because I liked the way they looked and they were limited editions.

Finally, here’s a pendulum style clock that I’ve been unable to track down any information about. Could be someone’s hand made piece. There’s no markings on it and the character image is very well done.

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Starting with the Ingersoll watches, Disney timepieces were part of the overall merchandising genius of Herman “Kay” Kamen, the man Walt hired to manage character licensing. Ever watchful of the Disney brand, every licensed item had to be approved for quality by the Disney Company. By the time Snow White opened a complete merchandising campaign was ready to go on day one. It’s no secret that the licensing fees have always been a significant part of Disney company revenues. Thousands of watches and clocks have been produced over the years. So, a collector should be able to find something of interest with a price tag to match the budget.

Because there were and continue to be many different Disney character timepieces produced, it’s often hard to track down specific information, particularly on some of the older pieces. Part of the fun, is the detective work that’s required to specifically identify dates and manufacturers for any Disneyana item. If anyone has reliable information about the pieces I’ve included here, please let me know through a comment or email. Those of you who are hooked on collecting, like I am, happy hunting!

 

A Mother’s Day Message

Since, I usually post on Sundays, and since, today happens to be the usual busy Mother’s Day, I’d like to revisit my very first post on this Blog, A Mother’s Gift, which I wrote shortly after my mother passed away and updated recently.  I wrote about how my mother’s interest in Disney and Disneyana influenced me. I didn’t always appreciate the gifts my late Mother bestowed upon me during her lifetime, including a love for all things Disney. I think trying to separate from your parents, particularly our mothers is part of the natural growing up process. Unlike much of the animal kingdom, our mothers don’t usually push us out of the nest or chase us away as we get older. Our moms are always there for us.

The effect of denying that my mother could offer me anything useful to learn didn’t become clear to me until after she was gone. My mother had taken my brother and I to many Disney movies while we were were growing up. She surrounded us with Disneyana in the house. I owe much of my treasured Disney collection to her hard work and appreciation of Walt’s work. In retrospect, now that I am caretaker of that

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Part of my Disneyana collection

collection and continue to add to it, I wish I had spent more time enjoying the items with her. There are some pieces that she must have found wonderfully interesting and exciting to own, but are now a mystery to me. She may have even owned some of them during her childhood. I’m not making the same mistake with my kids. I’ve created an annotated item inventory and I spend time to help my kids understand why the collection means so much to me. (see my post Hooked on Collecting)

Walt and Mrs. Disney Standing with Stuffed Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney and his mother, Flora

As with all son’s, Walt appears to have had a complex relationship with his mother. Based on the biographies I have read, it seems he trusted her. While he was in Paris at the end of World War I, he sent money home and she put some aside for him so his father wouldn’t find out. It was that nest egg that enabled Walt to start his first business. We’ll never know for sure how much his mother helped

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Walt in Paris, 1918

make Walt who he became. But, you can be certain, that whether he was aware of it or not, her voice, her advice and her support was in his head and heart.

My mother always supported me in all my ventures and adventures over the years. It may have taken some time to blossom, but her love of Walt Disney was definitely inside me somewhere. It’s lead to my growing collection and this Blog, as well as connection to a worldwide community of, creative and inspiring like-minded, Disney loving people. So, take this as a cautionary tale. Your mother may not always know best. She may not always be right. But she has a lot to offer, if you give her the chance. You never know what you might find in yourself someday. So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the deserving, unappreciated moms out there from all of us to whom you give so much.

I’d like to take advantage of the Disney community to which I referred. I was hoping that someone out there could help me identify these objects from my collection, which I have had no luck identifying. If you can help, please leave a comment or send me an email.

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Hooked on Collecting

I’ve always liked to collect things. I’m not talking about hoarding. I’m talking about interest and passion for a subject or type of item. There are many kinds of collectors. Some people collect memories and stories that they use to gather people around them. Some collect people, friends to make their lives socially active. Others are drawn to a subject or person that they want to feel closer to.

Over the years I’ve collected, baseball cards, comic books, books on magic, magic ephemera and oh, yes, trivia. I seem to collect trivia like the underside of a bed collects dust bunnies. It has, however, helped me at the Disney Trivia contests I go to. Many sports collectors stick with a team or players that they admire or root for. As a teen I collected antique magic books. when I was an amateur magician.

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Houdini signed letter and period photo from my collection

I was very drawn to the master showmanship of Harry Houdini and wanted to know more about him. My interest in magic waned after college, as my attention was focused on my career, then my marriage and then my kids. As our kids got a bit older, trips to Disney World increased in frequency and I wanted to know more about the man who had created great movies and could envision and realize a place people could go to escape into a world of fantasy.

Walt’s drive, passion and success was inspiring. I’d always been a fan of Disney movies. The first movie I ever saw was The Sword in the Stone. In my collection I have some small

Jungle Book toys that connect me with my childhood. And since my mother was a Disneyana collector when I was young, I can look at certain things, like a Snow White radio or a Mickey Mouse sled and I am taken back to the house I grew up in. But it it’s Walt who I wanted to know more about. And, since I’m not able to meet him, the closest I am able to get are things with which he was connected.

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Given the number of projects in which Walt was involved, it always amazes me that he even had time for anything but work and family. But he did. And his “collection”, his passion, was for trains and railroads. It seems he may have developed a connection when he was a boy and his family lived in Marcelinne Misourri, which I have learned was a town created by the Aticheson, Topeka & the Santa Fe R00_steam_up_at_studio_soundstage_eddie_sargeant_rogger_broggie_and_walt_050327_bennettailroad, which went from Chicago to Kansas City. When he was older, he not only visited railyards, but built a small gauge railroad on his property that he called the Carolwood-Pacific. Walt himself, with help from his staff and other rail enthusiasts like animator Ward Kimball, built engines that they would ride on track laid out on a soundstage. Later Walt would lay out a larger small gauge railroad he called the Carolwood-Pacific, and take friends on rides. His

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Walt running the Carolwood-Pacific in his “backyard”

passion for railroads can be seen in the railroads that circle every Disney park in the world (except for the new Shanghai park). The Disney railroad was one of the premier attractions when Disneyland opened. Walt’s influence and interest in railroads is can still be felt in the railroads that are part of every Disney theme park.

 

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Walt at Disneyland Opening Day

Since I was not alive for, for the premiers of the early Disney animated films, or the opening of Disneyland, I like being able to touch things that, not only, Walt might have had on his desk or passed at the Studio, but also things that the animators, Imagineers and other creative people around Walt would have created or touched. The trouble is, Walt was an early adopter of merchandising for his films. As a result, there are thousands of early Disney related items to collect

Some Disneyana collectors focus on a character, movie or type of collectible, like animation cels. I’m not sure I’ve hit on a single theme, so my collection is eclectic. But, primarily I’m drawn to things that would have been produced during Walt’s lifetime.

Some collectors buy things as an investment. While some of the items in my collection are valuable, their value to me is not in what I could get for it if I sell it. I can’t speak for all collectors, but when I buy, or find, a Disney item, it’s as if I found buried treasure. I remember as a teen, prowling old bookstores for out of print magic books. Finding one on a dusty shelf would make my heart race.

I find auctions are very exciting. I go through the catalog of items to be auctioned like a kid in a candy store. Then there’s the anticipation as the item I am interested in gets closer to being put on the block. Then there’s the competition, bidding against other buyers and the excitement as the bids go up and I make quick “command” decisions about how much more to bid or whether I should let the item go. I still remember the first auction I went to in New York City. I think I was about 13. It was a large catalog of magic items. I got my numbered paddle and sat in the room and watched as the items were auctioned off. I was surprised at how fast things went. It wasn’t as if the auctioneer was giving people a lot of time to think about their bids. Finally, after a couple of hours, the item I wanted to bid on, I think it was a Harry Houdini poster, came up. The auctioneer started the bidding. And then, bing, bang, in about 10 seconds the bids were well beyond what my meager budget could afford. And then it was over. I was disappointed, but the experience was fun.

I have some favorites in my collection, that I can’t help but look at when I go past them. I chuckle to myself when I look at the Dopey ventriloquist dummy. Who thought it was a good idea to make a dummy out of a character who doesn’t speak? If I were a kid in the late 1930s what would I have thought Dopey sounded like? There are some autographed pictures which would have been signed by Walt himself, including a check to Bell and Howell from 1935. Since Bell and Howell manufactured parts for the multi-plane camera that was used to film Snow White, that means that Walt signed that check in the midst of one of his greatest triumphs and most highly creative periods of his life. I can imagine him sitting at his desk with piles of papers, drawings, paintings, model sheets and a pile of checks to sign. Maybe it was late at night, after a grueling day of storyboarding, difficult decisions about plot and character and direction. Perhaps there was a scene or moment that an animator was having difficulty translating Walt’s ideas onto paper.

The Disney’s were always on the brink of financial ruin in those early years. “Walt’s Folly”, as everyone in the industry was calling it, was a hard project for them to get financing. Walt and Roy ended up using even their homes and cars as collateral to keep the project going. Then maybe he’d get up, make himself a drink and walk around the animator’s room. He’d look at the work on the tables. I’ve read that he would go through the garbage cans, sometimes pulling things out and leaving notes for the animators on a drawing that he felt had more promise than they did.And I have some early toys, including a tin, windup Ferdinand the Bull from 1938. The book was one of my favorites when I was a boy.

The collection lets me, just for a moment, live in a world where Walt Disney is still alive and I was around him. I know it’s easy to sugarcoat a time before we lived. Walt was apparently not always they easiest man to work for. And, we do tend to glorify past times, ignoring the hardships that were part of that era. But, what a thrill it must have been to interact with that creative, blazing comet that streaked through the studio and left, in his wake, ideas and inspiration that built an entertainment empire. Thoughts like that have helped me through many of my toughest days. So keep collecting. Don’t let anyone call it junk or laugh at the dozens of Disney snow globes or trading pins that give you so much joy to prowl second hand stores, browse ebay or buy at the parks, then display, look at and enjoy. Buying and keeping things related to Disney helps keep the magic alive even when you’re not at a movie or in one of the theme parks.

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